The history and contribution of the Gujarati community in the UK is a testament to their resilience, creativity, and commitment to making a positive impact to British society, says Gareth Thomas MP (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
THE BRITISH Gujarati community is home to some of the great success stories of modern Britain.
The largest part of the British Indian community in the UK, British Gujaratis have remarkable family stories that also tell the story of Britain’s changing relationship with India over the past 150 years.
I am privileged to represent a diverse and lively constituency in Harrow, among which are many impressive British Gujaratis. Across the UK there are an estimated 800,000 British Gujaratis of different faiths, with temples, mosques and community centres home to a remarkable community all with links to the state of Gujarat in India.
For several years, I have been being encouraged to set up an All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for British Gujaratis to raise in a non-party political way some of the issues that are unique to the community, or where there is a particular community interest and which aren’t being addressed by other groups.
The APPG will not focus on India or particular faiths. There are other well established groups looking at these already.
APPGs are cross party – they must have members from each of the main British political parties in senior positions and be open to all MPs and peers. This is, indeed, the case with the APPG for British Gujaratis, with MPs such as Bob Blackman, Shailesh Vara and Munira Wilson, as well as Virendra Sharma and Navendu Mishra all holding key positions within the group.
Some of the issues we hope to look at include what more can be done to support the teaching of languages such as Gujarati, Urdu and Hindi; what further work can be done by public bodies such as the NHS to tackle health conditions that are a little more prevalent among the Guajarati community; and what further planning can be done to ensure that there is appropriate care for the elderly available for the Guajarati community.
In addition, we might be able to explore what else can be done to support the further business success of the community.
The first issue that has been raised is the decision to shift, without apparently any consultation, direct London to Gujarat flights from Heathrow to Gatwick. A huge community campaign that began more than 20 years ago, finally led to flights direct from Heathrow to Ahmedabad and back, reducing time and costs for families to make the journeys to be together, or to pursue shared business ambitions.
Letters to the Civil Aviation Authority, Air India and Heathrow have asked for clarity on why the decision has been taken, and whether it will be reversible. Indeed, there are plenty of calls for more capacity for such flights from other parts of the UK, too.
While the APPG will focus on issues that matter to British Gujaratis, I hope its work will be relevant and useful for the wider British Indian community, and of use more generally across the UK. But this group will focus primarily on the economic and health and welfare issues within the community.
None of these issues are the stuff of front-page headlines, but I hope in time they may help to make small differences to support the further successes of the impressive people who make up Britain’s Gujarati community.
The Gujarati community in the UK has made tremendous contributions to our society and economy. Gujaratis of all faiths have established successful businesses, created jobs and made a positive impact in our local communities. The history and contribution of the Gujarati community in the UK is a testament to their resilience, creativity, and commitment to making a positive impact to British society.
I have already had a lot of discussions about the group with different parts of the British Gujarati community and plan to have many more. We are already established as a registered group and I am grateful for the considerable and constructive interest and ideas that the group has already attracted.
The MPs who support the allparty group hold very different views on many national and international subjects, but all agree that the APPG can make a small and hopefully, in time, valuable contribution to supporting the British Gujarati community. I look forward to working with and supporting the community.